You value your Keurig coffee maker for its convenience. But unless you descale the inside of it on a regular basis, it won’t be convenient for long. If you’ve ever seen that “PRIME” message light up on your machine, you know what we’re talking about. That’s when mineral deposits clog up your favorite morning brewmaster and turn it into a most inconvenient monster.
Since you only pour clean water into your Keurig, you may think the insides of the coffee maker should never need cleaning. However, with each refill, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals leave trace amounts behind in your machine. The amount and specific kind of each will depend on where you live. Some areas have water that’s “harder” than others, meaning the water has more dissolved minerals in it than are found in other places. Knowing what kind of water you have could be helpful with the maintenance of your machine. The harder your water is, the more residue will be left behind in your machine.
The residue happens because as the water heats in your Keurig, a chemical combustion occurs and causes the minerals to leach out of the water. When the water empties, minerals remain behind in a coating on the metal parts of your Keurig. Eventually, if left alone, that coating builds on itself and turns into hard-to-remove chunks called scale. Depending on where you live, it could be a calcium scale, limescale, or another form. By neglecting to descale your Keurig, you allow mineral deposits to grow so big that they can clog your machine and prevent it from functioning properly.
It’s never a good idea to wait for that PRIME message to show up on your Keurig coffee maker. Some machines do have an automatic reminder that will pop up before it’s too late. If yours doesn’t have that notification ability, Keurig recommends descaling your machine every two to three months as preventative maintenance. If you’re a heavy user, you should probably do it closer to that two-month mark. If you know your water is considered harder than normal, you may want to do it even more frequently.
Some people swear their coffee has a slightly different taste as the scale builds up. But scale buildup seldom affects the taste of plain water, so it may not be noticeable in your coffee. You really can’t rely on taste to tell you it’s time to descale your Keurig. If in doubt, a simple inspection with a flashlight will reveal scale on the inside of your machine. If you see it, descale it.
Keurig sells a descaling solution, but many people swear by simply using white vinegar. We put them both to the test, and here’s what we found out.
From the outset, plain white vinegar seems to have the advantage:
Keep in mind, we’re talking about plain white vinegar here, nothing with color and nothing made from apple cider, rice, or anything else. We’re referring to the plain white vinegar you can buy in large plastic jugs that have been used for decades as a cleaning solution.
The result? The coffee still had a hint of a vinegar taste. After doing a second round of plain water, that hint was gone. An interior inspection showed the scale was gone.
Here are the initial differences between using Keurig Descaling Solution and white vinegar:
To clean with Keurig’s solution, we took the same steps as we did with the vinegar, except we needed the Keurig manual for our machine to tell us how much to use. We:
Both worked fine, but we liked only having to go through the process once with the descaler, versus running the machine three times (once with vinegar and twice with water) before we could get a fresh, good-tasting cup of coffee.
We noticed in the manual that if your machine should malfunction during your warranty period and you had cleaned it with something other than Keurig’s Descaling Solution, your warranty would be voided. Despite the vinegar costing less, it might be less expensive in the long run to use the Keurig product in case you ever need a warranty repair or replacement.
If you want to keep your Keurig running smoothly and fully functioning, our suggestion is to descale it every two to three months with Keurig’s Descaling Solution. Otherwise, it might just turn into an inconvenient monster with a warranty problem!
Image credit: Tony Webster, Flickr
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